Chair of the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) Shahinda Ismail has said she is “very sceptical of the burden” the institution will have to carry following the publication last week of the Commission of National Inquiry’s (CNI) findings.
The comments were made after Minister of Home Affairs Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed yesterday said that the PIC would be tasked with investigating breaches of police conduct outlined in the CNI’s findings.
Of primary concern to Shahinda was the CNI’s lack of clarity regarding the cases the PIC was to investigate, as well as loopholes within the Police Act which made it difficult to implement PIC recommendations.
“After the CNI, it’s quite confusing when they have so vaguely blanketed the actions of the police. It would have been clearer to name specific incidents or policemen,” she said
Shahinda has questioned the ability of the PIC to follow through with this mandate after having had almost no contact with, or instruction from, the now-disbanded CNI.
“I was surprised at the dismantling of the CNI. There surely must be further questions from many people,” she said.
“After the Human Rights Commission (HRCM) completed their investigations, they sent a letter to us [to guide our work]. We would like something similar from the CNI,” she said.
Shahinda revealed that, throughout both versions of the CNI, the PIC had only had one meeting and received one letter from the commission.
The meeting involved mainly introductions and talk of future co-operation, whilst the letter from the CNI to the PIC asked only when its investigations into the events of February would be completed, she explained.
Referring to the CNI’s recommendations that the PIC, amongst other institutions, needed to be strengthened, Shahinda responded:
“My question would be – while I don’t claim the PIC is perfect – what information are they working with? Throughout their investigations, they showed no interest. There was no inquiry about specific incidents. To my knowledge, no one was summoned.”
Shahinda explained that the PIC was already investigating a number of incidents relating to February 7 and 8, making the lack of contact doubly confusing.
“They knew we were already investigating specific incidents – that’s what we do,” she said.
Shahinda also outlined what she saw as the weaknesses within the police act that, in certain cases, had allowed the Home Minister the option of ignoring PIC recommendations.
Article 44 of the Police Act states that any parties handed recommendations by the PIC can choose not to act on them if they inform the commission of the decision in writing.
“He is not really bound by the act,” said Shahinda, before alleging that this clause had already resulted in the Home Minister ignoring recommendations forwarded to him.
The PIC chair gave the example of a case involving police officer Ali Ahmed, whom she said had been adjudged unfit to continue to serve by the commission. Shahinda claimed the case had been forwarded to the Home Minister.
“I know for a fact he is still a policeman and was promoted after this incident” she said.
“It is really upsetting – a huge concern – for me that the police leadership is showing a trend where unlawful officers are acting with impunity. This can only lead to further violence,” added Shahinda.
Dr Jameel was not responding to calls at the time of press.
Former President Mohamed Nasheed has recently expressed his belief that around 300 members of the security services were “undermining the public interest of the entire country”.
Following the findings of the CNI’s report, which concluded that Nasheed was not removed from power in a coup, he called for legal action to be taken against implicated officers.
Nasheed’s representative on the commission Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed resigned the day before the report was published, citing – amongst other things – withheld evidence and non-examination of crucial witnesses.
The report’s findings have been welcomed by the United States, India, and the United Nations as well as the Commonwealth, although the MDP has said it will lobby for the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) to reconsider.